Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The neighborhood matters: Packard Center scientists show cell environment is important in ALS

06.10.2003


In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), neighborhood may be everything, if a new study in mouse models of the disease holds true for patients.



ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, brings about a gradual death of the motor neurons that activate muscles. Paralysis follows. But according to work described today in the journal Science, the cells that are next to motor neurons -- but aren’t themselves nerve cells -- can play a major role in advancing or limiting the disease.

"What we’ve been given is a new principle for extending survival or, perhaps, overcoming ALS, based on how many healthy cells surround an ailing motor nerve cell," says Don Cleveland, Ph.D., a scientist with The Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins and, with Larry Goldstein, Ph.D., co-leader of the research team. "All this has great implications for stem cell therapy," he adds. "We now believe delivery of normal, non-neuronal cells to spinal cords could be completely protective, even without replacement of a single motor neuron."


In a series of experiments, the team measured the effect of having different proportions of healthy cells to at-risk cells in mice, clocking their survival time. Normally, the scientists work with standard animal models of ALS. Those mice or rats carry a mutant human gene -- called SOD1 -- that triggers a rare, inherited form of the disease in people. In these models, every cell carries a mutant SOD1 gene. The animals typically slip into death by the time they’re six to eight months of age.

But in this study, the researchers used chimeric animals -- mice engineered to be a mix of normal cells, also called wild type, and cells containing the mutant SOD1 gene. They tagged the cells with molecular flags to make it clear which were which. The percent of wild-type cells in the animals’ spinal cords ranged from 5 to 90 percent.

Having wild type cells mixed in had the effect of extending mouse survival from one to eight months, depending on the number of cells and type of SOD1 mutation. In a second group of chimeric mice, brought about by a different technique and with a different type of tracer, the animals survived disease-free until sacrificed for study at an age at least twice the age at which typical SOD1 animal models die.

Even though further study showed that as high as three-fourths of the motor neurons in the animals’ spinal cords carried the mutant gene, all the motor neurons remained amazingly healthy, apparently from having healthy non-neuronal cells in the neighborhood. This was especially true of the second batch of mice, which had no microscopic evidence of disease.

"It’s really striking," says Cleveland, "to see what a small number of normal cells effectively eliminated damage to motor neurons from the ALS-causing genetic error."

The opposite effect also appeared: mice with normal motor neurons but with surrounding cells carrying an SOD1 mutation showed early signs of disease. Normal neurons, then, can apparently acquire something toxic from at-risk non-neuronal neighboring cells.

"So we’re seeing a real-life metaphor here," says Cleveland. "Living in a bad environment can damage good cells. And more important, restoring a better environment to ’bad’ neurons by surrounding them with healthy neighbors can significantly lessen toxic effects. In some cases, having normal cells completely stops motor neuron death."

Research conducted by Center scientist and team member Jean-Pierre Julien, Ph.D., at Laval University in Quebec was a key contribution to the results. Researchers Cleveland and Goldstein are both at the University of California, San Diego, where Cleveland heads the Laboratory of Cell Biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

The research was funded by the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, Project ALS, The ALS Association, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, The Angel Fund for ALS Research and the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Headquartered in Baltimore, the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins is a collaboration of scientists worldwide who are working aggressively to develop new treatments and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Center is the only institution of its kind dedicated solely to the disease. Its research is meant to translate from the laboratory bench to the clinic in record time.

Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New malaria analysis method reveals disease severity in minutes
14.08.2017 | University of British Columbia

nachricht New type of blood cells work as indicators of autoimmunity
14.08.2017 | Instituto de Medicina Molecular

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>